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DF Interview: Michael Moreci sets comics ablaze with Burning Fields
By Byron Brewer
Early in the new year, BOOM! Studios reunites the team behind Curse in Burning Fields, a book being described by co-writer Michael Moreci as “military horror.” Along with Moreci are co-writer Tim Daniel, artist Colin Lorimer on interiors, and both he and Riley Rossmo splitting covers.
Burning Fields centers around Dana Atkinson, a disgraced military investigator who returns to Iraq after a series of bizarre murders threaten to destabilize the area. With the help of a local investigator named Aban, Dana sets off to find the truth behind the murders, and confronts some demons—in the form of a ruthless private military company—of her own. Think Zero Dark Thirty meets The Thing.
Dynamic Forces made its way to the Middle East to discuss this new book with Moreci. Amid the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air, DF gathered this coded intel for its readers.
Dynamic Forces: Michael … “Military horror”? To some, I think, one
equals the other. Explain the mood of your newest book from BOOM!
Studios, Burning Fields.
Michael Moreci: I think this is going to be a challenging book, in terms of topic and what it presents. [Co-writer] Tim [Daniel] and I aren't shying away from driving home a point that revolves around the mess our country's foreign policy and military—specifically the private military—have made in Iraq. We've really done some bad things there, with thousands of civilian deaths and our impact on the entire culture. The mood is tense in this book, focusing on a literal manifestation of what happens when a place is poisoned in such a way—sin entering the garden, so to speak—poisoned by greed and imperialism and the things that have been done in the attainment of those goals.
DF: You just came off a very critically-claimed stint of horror telling with Curse. Does this put any undue pressure on you since it is the entire same creative team, and can you compare the two properties?
MM: The only pressure is what I apply to myself. I'm very proud of what we achieved with Curse, but the goal now is to improve on that. I'm committed to always getting better, to challenging myself in news ways, and that's why Burning Fields is a great follow-up and companion piece to Curse. It builds on what we did there, with intimate, character-focused horror that conveys a broader message at the same time (in Curse, it was a look at our healthcare system; in Burning Fields, it's our private military complex run amok).
DF: Who are Dana Atkinson and Aban?
MM: Dana is a former military investigator who is smart, savvy and very strong. She's brought back to Iraq to work on a serial murderer case that, we'll see in the case, hits close to home. Aban is a local law enforcement official who becomes her partner—and has his own personal ties to their case.
DF: Tell the circumstances of this amazing storyline. Very geopolitical.
MM: Basically, Dana comes back to Iraq to work this serial killer case and gets more than she bargained for or could ever even dream of expecting. But inherent in working the case in Iraq—Kirkuk, one of the most active oil hotbeds—is the culture of the place. She has to contend with the moneyed interests of the oil pipeline, the evil private military that's charged with protecting it, and a local populous that isn't at all happy with having their city occupied by any of these outsiders (not to mention their own internal conflicts). It's a simmering hotbed that can't sustain a killer running around, causing tensions to rise even higher. If Dana can't solve this case quickly, there's potential for a powder keg to blow up right under her, and the entire region.
DF: Can you spoiler-less-ly tell us about what it is that Atkinson confronts? What are these “monsters,” these “demons”?
MM: Like most of my writing, a lot of the monsters are metaphorical, so to speak. The monsters we all have to stare down. Laney had his own werewolf inside him in Curse, and Dana has her own monster dwelling inside of her that she needs to control. But, that said, we will confront some real monsters in this book—and we'll also confront the idea of what, exactly, a monster is. Because in Burning Fields, it isn't as easy as a giant beast with a horned head or something like that. There's monsters everywhere, and they take many shapes.
DF: Michael, as with Curse, Tim and you are sharing writing responsibilities on Burning Fields. How do you divide the writing chores? What is the process for you guys?
MM: It's pretty easy because we compliment each other well, and we're really good friends. We do a lot of talking about our stories, a lot of emailing, idea sharing, etc, and we get a firm handle on the story before we go to scripting. So, by that time, we know exactly what's going to happen in each issue and can divide it up based on our strengths. Tim can do monsters incredibly well, and horror/action; I do people standing around pontificating about the meaning of life, haha.
DF: What was the inspiration behind the book? Is this something that has been brewing with you or Tim or both for awhile?
MM: I've always been horrified by the private military complex, for years. These are people who basically have no governing bodies watching over them and can do whatever they want—oh, and they're incredibly funded and have weapons galore. Not a good mix (and let's not even talk about funding and the burden they are on the American taxpayer). That's where the story started, with me wanting to tell an incendiary tale about the private military and how downright terrible they are, for so many reasons. But, I couldn't quite get the hook, the drama of it. Tim came in with a brilliant idea—which I can't share here, due to spoilers—that tied everything together.
DF: Share, share …! Oh, OK: Why is Colin Lorimer the right artist for a book like this?
MM: Colin is pretty much right for any book, if you ask me. He's so talented and is honestly one of the best storytellers I've ever worked with. In addition to that, Colin gets horror—he knows how to build tension between the panels and drive home how unsettling things are.
DF: Speaking of Colin, I hear he and Riley Rossmo will be splitting covers. How cool is that?
MM: They're like peanut butter and jelly, those two. Both master craftsman with a unique style all their own.
DF: Well, Michael, you’ve answered this already, but maybe I can phrase it differently: Finally, is there anything personal about this storyline to you? (Nope, that’s the same, but go ahead …)
MM: Actually, I think I take ALL my stories personally—if I didn't, there'd be no point in telling them. What's personal to me is the atrocities the private military has been guilty without any punishment. It's hard for most to reconcile that, to know we live in a world where these hired guns can literally commit murder and walk away without so much on a slap on the wrist—so long as, allegedly, they're protecting our freedom. But how much of our own conscience are we willing surrender for this freedom, is the question. There's lines we shouldn't cross, and I think the private military has gone well beyond that line.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Michael Moreci for taking time out of his schedule to answer our questions. Burning Fields #1 from BOOM! Studios will hit stores in January 2015!
Pre-order your copy of Roche Limit #1 signed by Michael Moreci right here!
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